[Server-devel] How do the clients find a School Server in "appliance mode"

Braddock braddock at braddock.com
Mon Dec 30 23:26:33 EST 2013

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Hi guys,
I was introduced to XSCE "Appliance Mode", which raises some great
possibilities, but also some difficulties which need to be addressed,
and which Internet-in-a-Box appliances have already faced.

If a school server is installed on a network in "appliance mode", and
does not serve as the network's DNS provider, then it becomes very
difficult for client XO's to find it since it has no name.

We have faced the same issue with IIAB appliances, and compensate for
it by providing mDNS/avahi and Samba NMB naming services.

- From any Windows, Linux, or Mac when an IIAB appliance is on the
network it is accessible from either http://know (Windows) or
http://know.local (Mac or Linux) - our hostname is always "know".

Installing these services is just a matter of `apt-get install samba
avahi-daemon' (Debian - something yum in Fedora).

A big problem we've faced with IIAB appliances on XO deployments is
that the OLPC OS does not turn on mDNS name resolution by default in
/etc/nsswitch.conf (although the necessary software is installed).  On
the XO laptop, all that is required is a `yum install nss-mdns` to
rectify the situation.

If you are creating a new image for the XO laptops, I strongly urge
you to install nss-mdns to activate mDNS resolution.

It will make School Server, IIAB, or other content sources on the
network running in an "appliance" mode practical without the need to
resort to difficult DNS modifications and static IP addresses.

The XSCE installer should similarly install samba and avahi-daemon on
the school server to publicize the host name.

If XSCE can be used in appliance mode with mDNS and NMB name
resolution, I would be seriously considering discontinuing our
(Debian-based) IIAB appliance hardware in favor of IIAB running on
XSCE on something like a Cubox for all our IIAB deployments.

I raised this issue on the OLPC devel mailing list last summer and it
favorably received:


- -braddock
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